Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Brian-Paul Welsh | A two-sided lass

Published:Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM

One of the most beautiful things about observing modern life in the tropics is the ease with which so many now share all the underlying parts for the world to see. By this I mean, lately, my gaze has been fixed on the abundance of our undergarments on display in social media, beyond the smut of Instagram, and the mental masturbation of Twitter, for the most part. I've spent the past few weeks mesmerized by Jamaicans baring their chests and posteriors, revealing the uglier side to this culture of violence.

As I watched clip after gruesome video clip of exasperated mothers viciously attacking the spirit of rebellion overtaking their teenage daughters, grabbing the bucking beasts by the nape and deftly slapping them to smithereens with the blunt edge of a cutlass, I grimaced when I realised I was, in fact, witnessing faithful re-enactments of the past 400 years of colonial programming.

While in that moment of sobriety, I felt a pang of regret that the persistent image of authority figures brutalizing their disobedient devotees into submission was not just reflected in mother-daughter relationships, but more broadly in our general concept of discipline as seen in homes, schools, churches and all other facets of socialization, originating in the penal institution on which this nation was founded.

Public reactions to the brutish parenting habits, typically shared as darkly humorous anecdotes by the traumatised survivors in adulthood, have ranged from hypocritical shock and indignation to tacit support for whipping and lashing as the divine way of taming this generation of vipers.

Recently, in this newspaper were two very interesting appeals to the collective conscience not to spare the rod lest we spoil the child. JD Wood penned a letter titled 'Corporal punishment is a gift from God' while Bishop Herro Blair Jr shared his doctrinal views in a heartfelt sermon titled 'If we can't beat our children', both representing two divergent ends of the evangelical spectrum converging on one common theme: battering and bruising is a divine prescription for the ailment of bratty behaviour.

Wood's words were particularly useful in articulating this point of view, as succinctly expressed in the following quote: "The human being is made predominantly evil, which is one of the hidden secrets of God, and this evil is diabolically reinforced by in dwelling satanic spirits that can only be controlled by harsh carnal punishment, curtailment of privileges, dispossession of valuable resources, and prayer and fasting."

The view that mankind is intrinsically iniquitous, wicked and of reprobate mind, a quality only curable by regularly conjuring welts and wails in the poor suffering imbeciles, was part of the philosophy used by our self-appointed masters to subjugate and supposedly civilise our ancestors.

By inventing a horrific system of physical and psychological terrorism to inculcate this ideology, they succeeded in imprinting such beliefs into our memory and cultural traditions and as faithful servants of the almighty white deity, we have been transmitting this belief to successive generations as the right way of doing things.

In lamenting what is perceived by many as the loss of liberty to flog God's wayward 'sheeple' so they quickly get back in the line to salvation, Bishop Blair offered the following words of wisdom in his own emotional epistle: "Hundreds of children are still being beaten with tree limbs and belt buckles. We don't want that to be the case, but we don't want the police to be coming to our homes because we tell a child to hold out his hands and use a belt to slap him five times because he is disobedient."

Heavens forbid, Jamaica should suffer the secular malady currently infesting more developed nations, where children can no longer suffer the whip! If not for the rod of correction, how else might parents scare their children straight?

Perhaps what ought to be taken away from this gathering of unrepentant, reticent and reluctant disciplinarians sharing their views on the physical welfare of those so subjected, is that they genuinely mean well but are simply ill-equipped to provide more than what they have been taught is the right way to temper the unruly, given how we have been socialised to conceptualize and implement discipline and obedience. All they are simply seeking is sympathy for their plight, given the lack of appropriate tools for torture, I mean parenting.

So rather than condemn those who bare their backsides in a righteous rage, perhaps we should also empathise with their plight just as much as we commiserate with those whose hides they sting. In other words, there are two sides to the lass in the video, and perhaps we ought to consider the underlying factors that led her to instill discipline in her undergarments.

- Brian-Paul Welsh is a writer and public affairs commentator. He can be reached at brianpaul.welsh@gmail.com or @islandycynic on social media.